Metamorphoses

By Ovid

From Book 3

The Metamorphose of Actaeon

The Rape & Death of Chione

Actaeon   Actaeon was the first of all his race,
          Who griev'd his grandsire in his borrow'd face;
Condemn'd by stern Diana to bemoan
The branching horns, and visage not his own;
To shun his once lov'd dogs, to bound away,
And from their huntsman to become their prey,
And yet consider why the change was wrought,
You'll find it his misfortune, not his fault;
Or, if a fault, it was the fault of chance:
For how can guilt proceed from ignorance?

The              In a fair chace a shady mountain stood,
Transformation   Well stor'd with game, and mark'd with trails of blood;
of Actaeon       Here did the huntsmen, 'till the heat of day,
into a Stag      Pursue the stag, and load themselves with rey:
                 When thus Actaeon calling to the rest:
"My friends," said he, "our sport is at the best,
The sun is high advanc'd, and downward sheds
His burning beams directly on our heads;
Then by consent abstain from further spoils,
Call off the dogs, and gather up the toils,
And ere to-morrow's sun begins his race,
Take the cool morning to renew the chace."
They all consent, and in a chearful train
The jolly huntsmen, loaden with the slain,
Return in triumph from the sultry plain. 

Down in a vale with pine and cypress clad,
Refresh'd with gentle winds, and brown with shade,
The chaste Diana's private haunt, there stood
Full in the centre of the darksome wood
A spacious grotto, all around o'er-grown
With hoary moss, and arch'd with pumice-stone.
From out its rocky clefts the waters flow,
And trickling swell into a lake below.
Nature had ev'ry where so plaid her part,
That ev'ry where she seem'd to vie with art.
Here the bright Goddess, toil'd and chaf'd with heat,
Was wont to bathe her in the cool retreat. 

Here did she now with all her train resort,
Panting with heat, and breathless from the sport;
Her armour-bearer laid her bow aside,
Some loos'd her sandals, some her veil unty'd;
Each busy nymph her proper part undrest;
While Crocale, more handy than the rest,
Gather'd her flowing hair, and in a noose
Bound it together, whilst her own hung loose.
Five of the more ignoble sort by turns
Fetch up the water, and unlade the urns. 

Now all undrest the shining Goddess stood,
When young Actaeon, wilder'd in the wood,
To the cool grott by his hard fate betray'd,
The fountains fill'd with naked nymphs survey'd.
The frighted virgins shriek'd at the surprize
(The forest echo'd with their piercing cries).
Then in a huddle round their Goddess prest:
She, proudly eminent above the rest,
With blushes glow'd; such blushes as adorn
The ruddy welkin, or the purple morn;
And tho' the crowding nymphs her body hide,
Half backward shrunk, and view'd him from a side.
Surpriz'd, at first she would have snatch'd her bow,
But sees the circling waters round her flow;
These in the hollow of her hand she took,
And dash'd 'em in his face, while thus she spoke:
"Tell, if thou can'st, the wond'rous sight disclos'd,
A Goddess naked to thy view expos'd." 

This said, the man begun to disappear
By slow degrees, and ended in a deer.
A rising horn on either brow he wears,
And stretches out his neck, and pricks his ears;
Rough is his skin, with sudden hairs o'er-grown,
His bosom pants with fears before unknown:
Transform'd at length, he flies away in haste,
And wonders why he flies away so fast.
But as by chance, within a neighb'ring brook,
He saw his branching horns and alter'd look.
Wretched Actaeon! in a doleful tone
He try'd to speak, but only gave a groan;
And as he wept, within the watry glass
He saw the big round drops, with silent pace,
Run trickling down a savage hairy face.
What should he do? Or seek his old abodes,
Or herd among the deer, and sculk in woods!
Here shame dissuades him, there his fear prevails,
And each by turns his aking heart assails. 

As he thus ponders, he behind him spies
His op'ning hounds, and now he hears their cries:
A gen'rous pack, or to maintain the chace,
Or snuff the vapour from the scented grass. 

He bounded off with fear, and swiftly ran
O'er craggy mountains, and the flow'ry plain;
Through brakes and thickets forc'd his way, and flew
Through many a ring, where once he did pursue.
In vain he oft endeavour'd to proclaim
His new misfortune, and to tell his name;
Nor voice nor words the brutal tongue supplies;
From shouting men, and horns, and dogs he flies,
Deafen'd and stunn'd with their promiscuous cries.
When now the fleetest of the pack, that prest
Close at his heels, and sprung before the rest,
Had fasten'd on him, straight another pair,
Hung on his wounded haunch, and held him there,
'Till all the pack came up, and ev'ry hound
Tore the sad huntsman grov'ling on the ground,
Who now appear'd but one continu'd wound.
With dropping tears his bitter fate he moans,
And fills the mountain with his dying groans.
His servants with a piteous look he spies,
And turns about his supplicating eyes.
His servants, ignorant of what had chanc'd,
With eager haste and joyful shouts advanc'd,
And call'd their lord Actaeon to the game.
He shook his head in answer to the name;
He heard, but wish'd he had indeed been gone,
Or only to have stood a looker-on.
But to his grief he finds himself too near,
And feels his rav'nous dogs with fury tear
Their wretched master panting in a deer.

Translated under the direction of Sir Samuaul Garth by John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison, William Congreve and others.